Severe storms continue to cloud Rutherford County

Jul. 19, 2013 @ 05:04 AM

The North Carolina Department of Transportation, area electric companies, public works and tree removal employees and fire departments across Rutherford County continue to have their hands full after more thunderstorms moved through the area Wednesday afternoon and evening, causing structural damage from fallen trees and leaving residents without power from downed power lines.

Several reports of damaging winds and trees falling on power lines were received shortly after the first part of a severe thunderstorm arrived around 4:30 p.m., impacting towns in northeastern Rutherford County.

As firefighters, utility workers and electric company employees responded to incoming calls of downed trees and power lines and worked to restore power, the severe thunderstorm continued to move through eastern Rutherford County at 5 p.m.

According to the National Weather Service, in some areas wind gusts were in excess of 60 mph during the storm.

Cliffside Fire Department was dispatched to seven calls during and after Wednesday's storm, including two downed trees blocking roads and several downed power lines due to fallen trees.

Cliffside firefighters also responded to a power line fire.

"We had several damages from the storm," said Cliffside Fire Captain Donald Blanton. "The calls started and they didn't quit until the storm was over — with all the lightening it was a pretty dangerous storm."

SDO and Ellenboro fire departments also received reports of fallen trees, downed power lines and power line fires.

"We ended up running 12 or 13 calls during the storm," said Ellenboro Assistant Fire Chief Robbie Downey. "We had a tree break on top and fall down onto a power line and set the weeds on fire. It was a live line and we couldn't do anything with it until Duke Energy got out there and cut the service to it, and then the fire was put out."

Ellenboro firefighters also responded to a tree that snapped and fell onto the corner of an auto sales building.

"The storm started here about 5:30 p.m. and it finally started easing off about 8:30 p.m.," Downey said. "We were still getting hammered with calls after that too — our last call was around 10 p.m. Wednesday."

As of 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Duke Energy reported 5,800 total power outages in its service territory spanning across western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina.

Rutherford County recorded 3 outages, while the majority (3,605) were reported in Spartanburg, S.C.

Following last weekend's band of severe thunderstorms, workers with Asplundh Tree Expert Co. and Pike Electric cleared downed trees and power lines at various locations, including several in Rutherfordton.

According to Pike Electric employees, it can take as long as five or six hours to restore power as a result of downed power lines.

Early Thursday morning, the National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather outlook through Wednesday, July 24 to include areas in western North Carolina, piedmont North Carolina, upstate South Carolina and northeast Georgia.

Scattered thunderstorms are forecasted to continue across the region, with a few storms expected to become severe and capable of producing heavy rainfall, hail and damaging wind gusts.